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Geoffrey

licensed vs original music

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Hi,

I'm debating whether to hire a musician to make original music for my game, or just use free or cheaply licensed music such as you might find at sites like these:
http://indiegamemusic.com/
http://www.mattmcfarland.com/
http://luckylionstud...-music-library/

Original music is obviously 'better' in the sense that it should be a better fit for the game, and people won't have heard it before. However my budget is limited (I can afford to spend a few hundred pounds) and I'm not sure what quality I can expect for that kind of money. Musicians seem to be very shy about what they charge.

Please share your thoughts and experiences!

PS: this is the game I'm working on: 'The Trouble with Robots' http://www.digitalch...uble/index.html

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Well, you sort of answered your question yourself -- licensed music is naturally at a loss vs. original scoring. It doesn't hurt to shop around and see what you can find and at the same time seeing what composers would be willing to score for you -- you might find talent out there with spare time in need of some change willing to do a good job for cheap; just beware bottom feeders, they aren't exactly all that great!

I guess what I'm trying to say "it never hurts to try" and that you can pursue both options without losing much else but a bit of your time (which is a precious commodity, but I'm sure you've got some to spare). If you have to pick licensed, go with the best tunes you can find and try to match it to the gameplay as best you can -- nothing worse than a cheesy "elevator-style" music playing in a fast-paced arcade shooter!

Best of luck! :)

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Hey there,
Looks like a neat game you're working on!

I agree with DarklyDreaming, go for original music.
Depending on what you need, a few hundred pounds could be enough to get you some nice professional custom tunes.

Cheers,
Moritz

(Psssst... I offer discounts to start-ups. Check out the reel on my website and shoot me a mail or PM if you're interested.)

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No reason you can't use a mix of both.

The previous game I made, I paid a composer $70 to make the soundtrack (7-9 songs, iirc). I got a really good deal because he was offering his services cheap and he was surprisingly good. Really good. I ended up paying him more than he asked, ending up giving him about $120 or $150. But, I wouldn't pay more than $15-20 for anything 3 1/2 minutes or less, but other than that one developer (who was offering his songs for $5 as a promotion) I don't know what the going market rates are.

For my current game, I'm going to use a mixture of original work and freely available online resources. A friend is making part of the soundtrack for free, as an experience-gaining project. However, I expect to shell out a couple hundred USD for professional work as well to fill in the gaps. I can then see what actually works best for my game, trying different things in-game.

It's good to have multiple different sources of resources you can pull from. Create a library of resources for your game projects. Also, when your project is complete, consider releasing any of the resources that you own the rights to, so other indie developers or hobbyists can benefit ([size="1"]Note: chances are, even if you pay a professional, you don't own the rights to the music (unless your agreement says otherwise), but that which you do own, by all means share it a year or two after your game is released if you can - I plan to with my resources).

Another thing is, if you work with a composer and have gotten good results, establish a relationship with that composer by continuing to go to him first when you need something. It'll benefit him and benefit you, as he'll work harder to please you, and you'll give him more business by offering him the option of first refusal, plus, as you build up a relationship, you're more likely to recommend the composer to others as well, giving free advertising by word-of-mouth.

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The previous game I made, I paid a composer $70 to make the soundtrack (7-9 songs, iirc). I got a really good deal because he was offering his services cheap and he was surprisingly good. Really good. I ended up paying him more than he asked, ending up giving him about $120 or $150. But, I wouldn't pay more than $15-20 for anything 3 1/2 minutes or less.

While it's nice of you to pay more and it may be true that you can make a lucky catch finding someone building his/her portfolio who's willing to work for cheap - I don't need a calculator to know that no one who's actually trying to make a living producing music will work for that price. It takes some hours to make a track (how many, depends on a few factors including genre and if instruments need to be recorded), and hardware/software/studio rooms aren't free either. You might take that into consideration when you're thinking of a fair rate for a professional composer.
Of course, there's nothing wrong working with hobbyist musicians and paying them only a small fee.

Another thing is, if you work with a composer and have gotten good results, establish a relationship with that composer by continuing to go to him first when you need something. It'll benefit him and benefit you, as he'll work harder to please you, and you'll give him more business by offering him the option of first refusal, plus, as you build up a relationship, you're more likely to recommend the composer to others as well, giving free advertising by word-of-mouth.[/quote]
This is a good point - and a good reason to chose someone who's going to stick with doing music full-time, if you have the budget.

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[quote name='Servant of the Lord' timestamp='1323213900' post='4891261']
The previous game I made, I paid a composer $70 to make the soundtrack (7-9 songs, iirc). I got a really good deal because he was offering his services cheap and he was surprisingly good. Really good. I ended up paying him more than he asked, ending up giving him about $120 or $150. But, I wouldn't pay more than $15-20 for anything 3 1/2 minutes or less.

While it's nice of you to pay more and it may be true that you can make a lucky catch finding someone building his/her portfolio who's willing to work for cheap - I don't need a calculator to know that no one who's actually trying to make a living producing music will work for that price. It takes some hours to make a track (how many, depends on a few factors including genre and if instruments need to be recorded), and hardware/software/studio rooms aren't free either. You might take that into consideration when you're thinking of a fair rate for a professional composer.
Of course, there's nothing wrong working with hobbyist musicians and paying them only a small fee.[/quote]
That's true, you pay for quality... but you also have to watch out for musicians who think they are quality composers and charge quality prices but aren't (but you are right that you also need to watch out even more about wasting $25 on a song that completely sucks, when you could have paid $50 or more to a professional and got a quality piece without wasting anything).
But I'm talking about non-exclusive licenses for indie developers. I agree that exclusive licenses should cost much more (several hundred, I'd guess - but I openly admit I wouldn't know the market price); and developers with established reputations and quality are worth the prices they charge (otherwise they'd be out of business).

Looking around the net and the prices people charge, why would I pay more than $25 for an unproven composer, when I can pay $25 for an equally unproven composer? But once you find someone who you know is worth it, who stands out as better then the crowd (from their demo reels or from past experience with them), then keep that composer in mind and continue to work with him, even if he charges higher prices then the average. But until you know for sure someone is better than average, don't pay them more than average!

It's kinda hard to work out in my own mind what is 'fair' when my budget is small. I implicitly want to be as cheap as possible without cheating anyone; but I also want support and cultivate good relationships with those I work with. Finding a good balance there is hard for me, personally. Better err on the side of good relationships, and be a few dollars shorter, I suppose.

This might be a hot topic for composers - the huge number of poor quality musicians charging low prices pulling everyone else's prices lower - just as much as the huge number of iPhone apps and other cheap indie games driving game prices lower is a hot issue for game developers - so I somewhat understand where you're coming from. mellow.gif

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Thanks for all the suggestions. And so begins my campaign of spamming musicians... :wink:

I'll let you know what happens.

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Especially for exclusive rights. Even $100 per minute (or heck PER song as mentioned above) is still drastically below industry standard rates even for non-exclusive rights.

Can you clue us in to what (approximately) industry standard rates are for non-exclusive rights? I have friends who work in film scoring, and my impression is that in that field, $1,000/minute is on the low end...

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